A Career in Addiction Counseling
After having the spiritual awakening promised in Step 12, many people dedicate their lives to carrying the message of recovery to the still-suffering addict or alcoholic.
These fortunate few are committed to saving the world from the darkness of addiction – one lost soul at a time. For some, this means running a halfway house. For others, it means sponsoring people. For tens of thousands of recovering addicts and alcoholics every year, it includes a career in addiction counseling.
Before you make a career move, learn what it’s really like to be a chemical dependency counselor.
Why Becoming a Drug Abuse Counselor Makes Sense if You’re in Recovery
Many people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction say they feel drawn to the addiction treatment field. They feel a sort of calling to go into substance abuse counseling because they want to help others. This makes sense.
Those who find freedom from active addiction want to share their joy with people who are struggling to break free. They want to put their personal experience to good use by entering the treatment field. These people have a sincere desire to help hurting people recover from their addiction.
Being in recovery is not a requirement for becoming a substance abuse counselor. Personal experience is not necessary to be an addiction treatment specialist. However; most people agree that the best counselors are those who have been victorious over addiction in their own lives.
Why Not Work Step 12 and Get Paid for It?
Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
If you are passionate about helping other addicted people find recovery and stay clean, why not consider a career as a substance abuse counselor? When you earn a living helping addicts and alcoholics get sober, it’s like you never have to work a day in your life! You get to do what you love and bring home a nice paycheck that takes care of the bills.
So few get bestowed with such a rewarding existence.
The Twelfth Step promises a spiritual awakening if you work the entire recovery process. “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
Why not carry the message and get paid for it!?
The Recovering Addict – The Ultimate Weapon for Recovery
The program of Narcotics Anonymous says that “the therapeutic value of one addict helping another is without parallel.” It calls the recovering addict the “ultimate weapon for recovery.” This is because no one can better understand and help treat another addict than someone who has been addicted themselves.
Well-meaning friends, family members, and co-workers can talk until they are blue in the face to addicted people and never reach them. But, someone who once battled addiction can speak the language of addiction and help the addicted person find recovery.
It’s weird like that.
There are Different Types of Substance Abuse Counselors
Just because you have a history with addiction doesn’t mean you can just waltz into the role of a substance abuse counselor – even if you do have a PhD from the school of hard knocks! To work in the field of addiction treatment, you need to have the right credentials. Street creds won’t work.
To work in the addiction treatment field, you must be willing to make a real commitment of time and expense. You must get the proper education. Although every state is different and has different requirements, you typically have to get some level of certification and license to treat addiction. You can’t just step into the role of a substance abuse counselor, you have to be sufficiently trained for it.
There are a number of different career paths you can choose if you decide to pursue a profession in the treatment of addiction. You can become a peer support specialist, a licensed chemical dependency counselor, a psychologist, or some other kind of addiction therapist.
According to a 2016-2107 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median salary for substance abuse counselors is about $40,000. Not too shabby to pursue your passion and get paid for it. Of course, with higher education and specialized certifications, you have the potential to earn more.
Certified Peer Support Specialist – Addiction Treatment’s Best Kept Secret
Although called different names in different states, the peer support specialist is one of the greatest jobs created in the mental health field in the past decade. It is becoming more popular among employers because of its value to those served.
This position requires a certification, but the program usually costs less than a thousand dollars and takes less than six months. It’s a quick and easy way to start making a difference in the substance abuse field.
In this role, you must have a mental health diagnosis or be in recovery from addiction and have one year of sobriety. You must be willing to disclose your mental health issues or recovery experience with others. Your job is to provide support to people receiving mental health or addiction services by sharing your experiences and telling what has worked for you.
Although you are not a counselor, you would interact with patients while you, say, drive them to medical appointments. You share your strength as a peer – not as an authority.
Becoming a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC)
Some people who pursue a career in addiction treatment decide to become a licensed chemical dependency counselor (LCDC). This usually requires a two-year commitment in education. Completion of the typical program comes with a license to practice in substance abuse counseling.
Many people choose this route. Aside from the peer support specialist (which, to be clear, is not a counselor), it is the fastest, most common, and least expensive way to become work in the chemical dependency counseling field. Being an LCDC opens many doors and jumpstarts a rewarding career in addiction treatment. Some people get an LCDC and then go back to college later to obtain a higher degree.
Getting a Higher Education in Addiction Treatment Counseling
While some are satisfied with becoming an LCDC, others choose to get a Bachelor’s degree in psychology, substance abuse counseling, or a related field that specializes in addiction. They get a license to practice. They work in a treatment facility or hospital or in private practice. This is usually a four to five-year time commitment in education before you can even begin to practice in addiction treatment.
Many decide to go even further than a Bachelor’s when they make the decision to treat chemical dependency as their career. Becoming a licensed professional counselor (LPC) usually requires a Master’s Degree in Counseling or a related field of study. Those who obtain this status have a range of positions open to them as addiction experts working in the field of substance abuse treatment.
A Day in the Life of a Substance Abuser Counselor
Any addiction counselor will tell you there is no typical day in the treatment field. How could there be? When you are treating people who are detoxing from drugs and alcohol, anything is possible from one minute to the next. Many chemical dependency counselors say this is one of the things they love most about their profession.
When it comes to what it’s really like to be a substance abuse counselor, the job will always keep you on your toes. Things will never get boring. No two days will be the same.
However; there are a few constants you can depend on if you decide to become a substance abuse counselor. Here are a few:
- You can expect to interact with addicted people in various states of recovery at some type of rehabilitation facility.
- Many of the people you treat will be experiencing extremely painful detox.
- You might work in a detox, facilitate groups in an inpatient facility, or run outpatient services.
- People in this field work shifts around the clock. You may end up working at night.
- There are many different work environments for people in this profession. You could work in a hospital, a detox center, an in-patient rehab, a state-run facility, a prison, or some posh five-star treatment center.
- Your level of education and training will depend on your level of involvement with patients.
- There is a wide salary range for those in this field. You could make anywhere from $20,000 -$45,000 as an LCDC to $100,000 as a licensed professional counselor in a private treatment facility.
- There is a great deal of administrative work involved with this profession. Expect to fill out a lot of paperwork, no matter what role you fill.
- You can pretty much guarantee that you will always be able to find a job in your field.
Professionals in the Addiction Treatment Field are Always in High Demand
Unfortunately, the United States continues to be surged with intoxicating drugs that have people everywhere jonesing for more. There may be an ongoing argument about the difference between abuse and addiction, but who cares?
The truth is, the country is in the grips of a full-fledged drug epidemic and things are only getting worse. Indeed, addiction is on the rise. And, as long as there is addiction, there will always be a dire need for addiction treatment.
Let’s be real – addiction never ends up in a good and lovely place. People don’t go on thousand-dollar heroin binges, look around and feel proud of what they have done. No one rips their lives apart because they’ve been smoking crack and shouts, “YAY! Let’s do that again!” Addiction always ends up in complete destruction.
This is why chemical dependency counselors are in high demand. They are always needed.
Have you made a career as a chemical dependency counselor? What’s your experience?